Women Leadership in Education

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Thanks to Dr. Sparks, our cohort of Higher Education managed to explore, to understand and think about women leaders in education: who they are, what their roles are in education and in society as well. It was a very significantly interesting topic for us because we were eager to know the inside of this “absorbing” term as we study in the major called “Educational Leadership”. In addition, the interest grew since there are only girls in the group. My goal here is to share with you, Master’s students of Educational Leadership with ideas discussed in our class and to see what you think about this, if possible.

Personally, a woman leader is the woman who effectively juggles both career and family, who achieves success in the work and value family life. However, there is another idea of the authors which can be very interesting.

To explore this topic we went through several stages or steps: we discussed, read and presented PowerPoint Presentations. We read a book chapter written by Grogan and Shakeshaft (2011), who stated that there is a need to redefine or to create new understanding of leadership as women leadership in education. Women leadership in education is different from other types of leadership such as transformative, managerial, …and, therefore a new definition should emerge which will totally fit to the qualities, differences, traits and peculiarities of women leaders. And there are a number of reasons to prove that: women perceive and use power differently than men, that they use power through understanding and listening. As there was said: “Women have modeled ways to use power and make change through understanding, a process that requires listening, not just talking” (p. 91). Then, what makes women leadership unique is the use of skills given them naturally as a part of being a woman, which are mothering skills (protection, support, encouragement, etc.), and which can be beneficial in educational leadership. However, there was time, when “mothering skills were perceived less important than leadership” (p. 84). Moreover, women’s “revolutionary” approach to improve something and to change things for the better, to help others, to improve social justice are estimated as a certain difference. “As a way of making meaning in their work of leadership, women discuss their desire to make things better, to right social wrong, to increase support for underserved groups” (p. 90).

To sum up, the women leadership is a phenomenon which can be understood by people differently.  How to achieve success in education being a woman is a difficult question and may be there is no sole answer that fits for all and common for all, because nowadays, we are open to everything, we have freedom, we have the right to be different. So, what does women leadership mean to you and does it exist in Kazakhstan?

9 thoughts on “Women Leadership in Education

  1. Actually, leadership itself is a really difficult phenomenon. Many authors gave so many definitions, that not everybody can get it. Despite all kinds of leadership you mentioned , managerial, transformational, distributional etc., the point is person’s or leader’s realization that he is responsible for this organization’s future and make all possible effort to progress. Speaking of “mother’s instinct”,I guess it is crucial to consider your subordinates or followers as your own offspings, and take care of them; because again…responsibility.


    1. Dear Didara, thank you very much for your comment! I can say that I agree with you that the feeling of responsibility is everything, may be it does not matter whether the person is a leader or a follower, if he/she has responsibility while studying, working, helping someone or creating, inventing something, it will bring to prosperity and efficiency.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reflecting on the issue of defining the concept of women leadership, I will touch upon questions that Kusselita has posited. Before that, I assert that women leadership DOES EXIST IN KAZAKHSTAN. To justify I am referring to 5 women who govern Higher Educational Institutions (at least, at present). They are:
    1. Shamsha Berkimbayeva – the Rector of Kazakh State Women Pedagogical Institute;
    2.Gulnaz Akhmetova – the Provost of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University;
    3. Salima Kunanbayeva – the Rector of Abylaikhan Kazakh University of international relations and world languages;
    4. Zoya Tuyebakhova – the Provost of Kazakh-British Technical University;
    5. Janiya Aubakirova – the Rector of Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory.
    In the link below you can read their interviews where they shared their stories of success: http://season.kz/articles/karera/272.html (in Russian). Additionally, they shedded light on their vision of women leadership. Hope that it would be extremely useful to get their lived experience on becoming women leaders in education.
    When it comes to my understaning of women leadership, I will portray a multifaceted person. In my opinion, a woman leader possesses both masculine and feminine features.
    WHY? Because decisiveness and business acumen are required to run the institution (allocate resources, deal with problems, hire personnel etc.), while “soft” skills like an ability to negotiate the issues, communicate with people etc. are needed to LEAD but not to SUPRESS: This point can be very disputable… However, I do believe that it is FLEXIBILITY that differentiates two genders. The mothering skills are often associated with a women in a position of power. If so, we can remember our own mothers: they are so tender with own offsprings and turn into superheroines who will kill anyone to protect the children. So, the same is applicable to the leadership: be strong but be responsive too.
    In a nutshell, I suppose that the quote by Indra Nooyi precisely mirrors the gist of the women leadership: “As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.” Thus, try to find balance between being an “iron lady’ and a “caring mother” to be a true and victorious female leader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Aisara, thank you very much for your comment! I really like your clear, direct and strong response to my questions I posted above. I think, after your answer with justification that there are women who are really on the leading positions, everyone will think and believe that Kazakhstani women leadership exists!)


  3. This is one of the most interesting and at the same time the most dangerous topics on leadership. Despite being a woman and a mother, I partially disagree with the findings based on my empirical experience. I shall assume that women behave differently at home and at work. If they are caring and loving mothers and wives at home, they are killers and tyrants at work, especially if they are leaders. For example, as a mother and a wife I am ready to spend the whole day listening to my children’s and husband stories and support them. However, at work I do not have any time and wish to listen to someone’s moaning. Either I work and reach our aims, or I change the actors, and I have met many women doing the same.
    It is great if a women manages to find balance between leadership skills and a female character like Yessenova mentioned. However, there are not many women following this principle. For instance, there is a strict discipline and high level of competitiveness among students, as well as teachers, in all universities mentioned above. Misbehaves are strictly punished, in front of the other students, which is rarely noticed at educational institutes lead by men.


  4. In addition to all ideas mentioned above, I would like to emphasize the importance of realizing that leadership does not imply being at the top position, especially if we are talking about the women leadership. First of all, the women leadership is about altruism – dedicating oneself to work without expecting any profits. One thing that I most liked in the study of Grohan and Shakeshaft (2011) is that the authors found out that some of the teachers were ‘reluctant’ to take administrative positions because they were not willing to “get things right” (p. 89). They explained this action by stating that the administrative role is not the key for the changes, as all the changes should at first happen inside the system. To support this idea, I would give the example from this research that points out that female teachers at schools were not satisfied with the male leaders because they were incapable of changing anything “since real power and change was in the classroom or in curriculum development” (p. 89). Secondly, female leaders are trying to shift the paradigm of being the central driving force of the change, since the “power” is concentrated in the staff of any organization. Therefore, women leaders are “ambivalent about their own power” (p. 92). Women are more comfortable to work in a team, to share power and eliminate the notion that a leader is always somebody “at the top”. I believe that this trait of female leaders can be common for many Kazakhstani female leaders.

    Therefore, I am determined that all women who are involved in the field of education are already informal leaders because they can contribute to the changes even from the ‘bottom’ of administration. Teachers are, in fact, the most essential parts of this complicated mechanism that is called ‘education’, because all big changes start with little steps which are taken every day at schools and universities.

    Grohan, M., & Shakeshaft, C. (2011). Beyond gender? In Women and educational leadership, (pp. 83-99). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


  5. Thank you for the interesting post.

    Personally, I partly agree with the arguments of Grogan and Shakeshaft (2010). Firstly, I agree that the tendency “act like a man” is continuing in some Kazakhstani organizations. Secondly, the collegial model of leadership of women is partly true for me because it depends on situation. For instance, some women perceive their colleagues as the part of family while others clearly divide responsibilities between home and job. To sum up, I think that leadership is not question of gender, it is part of human-being.


  6. I agree with Sholpannur. It is not a secret, and we can see it in our daily life, that there are women who successfully lead on the equal basis as men. However, what do you mean saying “this person is a leader”?
    In my opinion, he/she is active, reliable, ready to face an attack and at the same time he/she has an ability to listen. I think a leader must be able to wait and also owe intuition concerning future. So such features as activity and readiness to fight if it’s necessary are men’s features more than women’s (but of course there are exceptions). However, ability to listen and insight usually refer to women (again with exception). So I think we have equal rights to lead, developing traits that we lack.
    However, we must admit that some people (men and women) are really tired to lead organizations. They feel better being an assistant. And such people are also important! Because they can be faithful, they can remember details and facilitate leader’s life. So in such a case I would say that this person-facilitator is a leader in his/her position or role and he/she is essential person in an organization.
    Women can be leaders, assistants, presidents, scientists. But it is great art to have a balance between career and a family. In astrology, for instance, the family dome and the career dome stand opposite one another, which means that usually exerting best efforts on a family we are not so successful in a career and vice versa. So we need to remember about all things simultaneously, be wonderful wives, mothers and succeed in work.

    So dear girls-masters, if you want to be leaders in all spheres in life, I wish you to find real men who are not afflicted with a sense of inferiority and who are strong enough to admit that his wife maybe in some cases are better than he is =))

    P.S. I am not a feminist, I love and respect men =))

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Bloggers! I would like to apologize I have just recently realized that I forgot to include reference list in my blog! I post it here:

    Grogan, M., & Shakeshaft, C. (2011). Beyond Gender. Women and Educational Leadership (pp. 83-99). United States of America: Jossey – Bass.


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